Visit the west side of Rattlesnake Mountain near North Bend, just south of I-90. Here, you can enjoy a hike through second-growth forest with possible wildlife sightings and with some outstanding high viewpoints.
From the parking area, the trail heads up the slope and into the trees, making a number of road crossings in the first couple of miles. Keep an eye for animal life, too! You might see deer, elk, mountain goats, or (rarely) a black bear. A few smaller furry animals make their homes here too, as do porcupines. And there are a variety of wild birds.
Hikers seeking an easier day may be satisfied stopping at the first destination on the way: Stan's Overlook, a bit more than 2.5 miles and 1,120 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead. Whether it's your destination or just a pause point, it's worth a stop, particularly if it's clear. Look for a big sign indicating Stan's Overlook. From here, a quarter-mile hiker/biker trail ends at the overlook, which has picnic tables and benches with views of the Snoqualmie Valley.
To continue to Grand Prospect, return to the main trail. Beyond Stan's Overlook the footing can be slippery. Ambitious trail crews have constructed steps and a pedestrian bridge here to make the slick and muddy patches more negotiable. Along the way you’ll zigzag through several switchbacks.
Eventually you will drop a little, cross Owen Creek on a bridge, then head gently uphill again. As you continue, the vegetation on the ground changes. It becomes a mat 3 or 4 inches thick that covers everything, even the trail. If your eyes haven't noticed it your feet will. The footing can be so wet that it feels like you are walking on thick, heavy-duty wet sponges. This is Sally's Swale. The term "swale" refers to a swampy area, and generally you would expect to find one in a low-lying area rather than here on a high ridge. But Sally's is different. It's a swale on a slope!
As you continue on, the trail gets somewhat firmer, and in another mile you will come to Grand Prospect (elevation 3,100 feet) your goal for today. It's a fine viewpoint, located on a shoulder of 3,262-foot West Peak opposite the I-90 exit for North Bend. (The true summit area of West Peak is home to a number of radio towers, and is less appealing.)
There are some wood benches here, and a sign board that identifies some of the high peaks visible to the north, from Mount Baker in the distance to the nearby summits of Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, Russian Butte and Mailbox Peak.
You have come up in elevation 2,120 feet. This is a great place for a snack and a beverage, and it offers a chance to catch your breath before you head back down and return to your trailhead.
While Rattlesnake Mountain is not a wildflower hike, you are likely to see a few blooms. Early in the season, look for flowering red currant, trilliums, yellow violets, coltsfoot, Solomon's seal (both regular and star-flowered,) and vanilla leaf. Later, goatsbeard, foamflower and thimbleberry appear. Other flowers, less common, are out there, too. If you are a flower fancier take a few photos, then consult a wildflower guide when you get home.
Extending your hike
Rattlesnake Mountain has a long ridge line, and when you reach Grand Prospect you have hiked barely half of it. The trail continues on, and in another 2 miles it crosses a high point at East Peak (elevation 3,517 feet.) This peak was a fine viewpoint once, but it's less so now as the surrounding trees have continued to grow.
Your trail then begins to drop, reaching the uppermost of the Rattlesnake Ledges in another 1.2 miles. It then descends steeply past the other ledges, and ends ultimately at the Rattlesnake Lake trailhead (elevation 920 feet) about 12 miles from your starting point and a few feet lower.
Note: Hikers have been visiting Rattlesnake Mountain for many years, at first by negotiating a challenging and often-changing maze of logging roads and social trails. The trail system that you enjoy today was completed in 2007, and is the result of many hours of volunteer effort by crews from Washington Conservation Corps, EarthCorps, and Washington Trails Association. A huge mountain of thanks to all those folks who participated!